The first hour introduces the controversial theory of British author Gavin Menzies, who has devoted nine years to proving that Zheng He and his Ming fleet of more than 100 ships reached America before Columbus. This episode investigates what is known about the fleet and its historic voyages, and the impact they had on the civilizations around the rim of the Indian Ocean. The program retraces the armada's journey to far-flung outposts throughout China, Southeast Asia, Arabia, India and Africa. Dramatic reconstructions using computer graphics bring to life the Ming fleet's scale and the unique design of the spectacular 400-foot treasure ships within the armada - a nautical achievement never surpassed by any other wooden fleet. The program the questions: Could the armada truly have sailed around Africa's Cape of Good Hope and reach the Americas? And will Menzies' investigations rewrite history and change the way people view the world?
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